This sermon opened a quick series that kicked off our fall 2011 ministry. The immediate background (which I explain in the sermon's introduction) was a slogan we had been bandying about for a few months: "You Are So Welcome." That slogan had popped into my head one day in late spring when a few of our staff were trying to coin a catchphrase for a new church sign. The suggestions to that point used language which I felt only Christians fully understood or appreciated—"Come Be Transformed by Jesus' Grace"; "A Place Where Human Brokenness Meets God's Holiness." That sort of thing. I wanted something with more breadth, greater reach, something that spoke directly and plainly to the heart of anyone happening by.
You are so welcome, I said.
The word "so" clinches it. That tiny word packs massive punch. So injects heartiness into the mix. It declares our welcome with Greek gusto, with loudness, with arms flung wide. It announces a bounty of hospitality that is no respecter of persons. I imagined the First Nations people who daily walk past our church, back and forth between their reservation and the town. I imagined the well-heeled people who live up and behind our church, who pass by our campus all through the day in their shiny new cars and SUVs. I imagined the busloads of teens that, morning and afternoon, travel the road in front of our church on their way to and from school.
I wanted that man, that woman, that teen, that child to know that, at New Life, they were so welcome.
But after the slogan started appearing, not just on our sign, but everywhere around the church—bulletins, letterheads, big screen announcements, web site—I realized how flimsy it sounded. And ...
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